The Bombardiers suffered a 3-0 loss to the Hornets early in the season and settled for a 1-1 draw in mid October.
But on Saturday night, Big Blue picked up the win in the game that mattered most, walking away from Alumni Field with a 1-0 win in double overtime in the MIAA D1 South First Round.
Eighty minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of the first overtime period wasn’t enough to separate the two but it took less than a minute of the second overtime period for Attleboro to find the winner.
Sophomore Colin Levis blocked a clearance on the right wing, raced to the ball and delivered a cross into the area. Mansfield goalie Nick Ferraz dove out, getting a hand to the service. The ball fell to sophomore Will Halben, who calmly cut the ball back and used his toe poke with his left foot to find the back of the net for the winner.
“When it got to me, I cut it outside and toe poked it with my left foot and megged the goalie and it got in,” Halben said. “I was really off balance but I was able to get enough power to get it through. I kind of forgot it was golden goal but everyone jumped on me and I was crushed at that bottom but it was a great feeling.”
It’s the third time in the last four games that Halben has scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win for Attleboro.
“He’s got the speed around the net, he’s been pretty good,” Attleboro head coach Peter Pereira said. “He missed his first one and just pushed it in with his toe. It was a good game, Mansfield kind of carries the play a little bit. Those throw ins are deadly. We’ve been practicing defending them but they are so hard to defend because of Mansfield’s height. Even though they had most of the possession, we needed a break and that’s what we got. The boys played well.
“Playing a team from the same league for a third time, it’s really difficult. The good thing was my kids were relaxed because they knew who the enemy was. But we also knew they had beaten us earlier in the season but we had tied them the second time so that really helped our conference. We’re 1-1-1 this year [against Mansfield] but we’ll take this one.”
The Hornets had over a dozen attacking throw ins and nearly 10 free kick opportunities that put the ball into the area but the results included either hitting the post, a save from Bombardier goalie Nick Hasenfus, a shot wide or a clearance from Attleboro’s defense.
The effort off the post came early in the game when Cullin Anastasia rose up to meet a throw from Max Gurnon. His header bounced once before hitting the post and staying out. Rebound chances from Brendan Sullivan and Anastasia were blocked by defenders.
Ten minutes later, a service into the area eventually bounced out to the top of the 18, but Sullivan had his shot on target saved by Hasenfus.
Mansfield had the two first chances of the second half as well when Max Gurnon ripped a shot from the left wing that went to the far post but Sean Lanzillo’s touch went just over the bar. Five minutes later, James Chotkowski’s header off a corner from Kevin Bouck bounced wide at the far post.
“We’re strong on those throw ins and those free kicks but just couldn’t find the back of the net today,” Mansfield head coach Steve Sheridan said. “[Attleboro] played great, I knew they’d pack it in and play tight defense. And their goalie played phenomenal. My hats off to them. We had more than enough chances in regulation, never mind overtime, and we just didn’t do it.”
Attleboro finally had a chance in the 61st minute with Halben blocking a clearance, racing around a defender and going in at goal at a tight angle but Ferraz did well to come out and cut the angle down, holding onto the ball after sliding out. Two minutes later, AHS freshman Mike Russo lofted a cross into the area but Halben’s header went wide of the far post.
Anastasia got his head to a throw from Gurnon in the 72nd minute but Attleboro defender Tyler Treichler was positioned well and headed the ball clear before it could get through to Hasenfus.
“They got four goals against us during the regular season and three of the four were from throw ins,” Pereira said. “They’ve got the height to flick it. We tried to work on stepping in front of them and get to it first. They are very good with those throws, the free kicks. Their defense is very good, Max [Gurnon] is a horse back there and they won most of the balls. But we’ll take it and we’ll go on and see what happens next.”
Hasenfus made the biggest stop of the game in the 78th minute. Gurnon dropped a free kick into the area that fell between Sullivan and Anastasia. Anastasia was the one to pounce, unleashing a shot from inside the 6 yard box but Hasenfus was positioned perfectly and knocked the bid aside.
“He’s been very solid, he’s grown all year long, the team has confidence in him,” Pereira said of Hasenfus. “We weren’t sure what to expect but he’s been solid, he’s a Hockomock All Star…he hasn’t made mistakes. We have not lost games because of him. Today – that one late was a big save – and the others he was sweeping them up and there were no drops. My defense played well, Harry [Lancaster] and Treichler played very well and the outside backs were strong too.”